Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, Convenor of the Green Group of Councillors:
Given on 20th February 2017 to address the rally at the Clock Tower, Brighton City Centre
Thank you to the people who have organised this necessary protest today.
Today is UN World Day of Justice when migrants from across the world remind us how important migration is for our society and why we must defend the principle of free movement.
As a migrant and as a Green Party Councillor I am proud to stand with you today.
Today we embrace the wonderful difference migrants bring to our
Today is really important because it is simultaneously a protest, a celebration, a festival of migration and a platform for migrants to make their diverse
First hand I know all too much about the sorts of ugly prejudice that immigrants to this country face. When I first came to this country twenty years ago I faced xenophobia and racism. I occasionally face direct prejudice and still face indirect prejudice. I am one of the 4 million EU citizens who have made their homes here in the UK and who in the context of Brexit face losing our rights.
I have lived and worked in this country for more than half of my adult life and like many others after Brexit it really felt that this was no longer a country that wanted me or other foreigners to be here. It is a disgrace that EU nationals have been given no assurance about their right to remain in this country. We must be clear that this uncertainty is completely unacceptable and we will oppose any attempt to pit worker against worker.
It is shameful that our own Prime Minister in recent times has failed to take a stand against Trump’s hatred. The events in the US might be happening thousands of miles away but let’s be clear – where Mr Trump is committed to building a wall with Mexico, Ms May is also committed to building walls in Calais, she supports tougher immigration and in her time as Home Secretary, vans circled the streets emblazoned with the slogan: “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest.”
During Brexit, we were encouraged to be ‘afraid’, of immigration, of migrants, of ‘other’ people. We were told to categorise our fellow citizens and humans as ‘legal’ or ‘illegal.’ Muslims were often the direct target of this disgusting message. After almost six years of Tory cuts and scapegoating, the xenophobic genie is out of the bottle.
Only a matter of months ago, we were handed another warning: in Austria, fascist candidate Norbert Hofer only just missed the top spot in the race to become the next Austrian President. In elections in Holland and in France over the coming weeks, far right leaders are strong candidates. They shout loudly. We have been warned that in a crisis if you give the far-right an inch, they will take a mile.
Even in trendy liberal Brighton and Hove we have had increases in hate crimes; even here there was a massive spike in racist crimes after Brexit. On other hate crimes there are large increases in incidents. Religiously-motivated crimes and incidents leapt from 29 to 37; Homophobic crimes and incidents rose from 49 to 64, including several violent homophobic attacks in the city. We need to think about how we will oppose bigotry in all its forms.
We also need to think about how we oppose the government’s damaging attempts to stoke prejudice. Sadly only the Green Councillors on Brighton and Hove City Council attempted to change the report on how we would work with the new Prevent proposals. We believe the new Strategy as it has been rolled out is wholly counterproductive and fosters mistrust. It is telling that Simon Cole, the national police lead for Prevent, said government plans risk creating a “thought police” in Britain. We already know that children, Muslims, anti-racist, anti-fracking and antiausterity campaigners have already been wrongly targeted under Prevent. But we are also extremely anxious about the Counter-extremism Bill.
The massive issue facing our council likes councils the length of the country now though as we all know is cuts. And although we must fight cuts and for every job, as Green Group of Councillors in Brighton and Hove 2017
austerity bites and inequality rises under the Tories, we cannot allow disillusionment in politics to give ground to racism and the far-right.
It is really disappointing that even though the city council publicly committed to today that our council staff will not be given time off, but will only be allowed to use their annual leave or flexi-time leave in order to attend. We really need the City Council to show leadership and support at this crucial time.
Acts of kindness that bind us stronger as a community have never been needed
more. Those at the sharp end of the fear and scaremongering that Trump, Farage and May are desperate to stoke need our support. It is no longer acceptable to remain quiet or walk to the other side of the road if we hear or see prejudice, xenophobia or racism – all of us must challenge them directly. We must promote the voices of the vulnerable and marginalised that the far right wish to silence. We will reach out to local community groups and those who are affected. In politics and local government, we must be champions of compassion and concern.
Ignoring prejudice of any sort has never made it disappear. We do not have the
luxury of walking away from hatred anywhere in our city. We must be clear: we will oppose the growth of the far-right and will not allow the current climate of fear to go unchallenged. That’s because not just Brighton and Hove – but this country -is better than this.
The contribution of migrants make us and this country richer in more ways than we can imagine. We have to say it loudly and clearly as protesters have in the magnificent protests on the other side of the Atlantic: No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.